Report: Chamber of Commerce Has No Real Sway in Congress on Immigration, Other Issues

Report: Chamber of Commerce Has No Real Sway in Congress on Immigration, Other Issues

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has no significant pull in legislative battles, despite its perception as a lobbying powerhouse, The Huffington Post’s Paul Blumenthal and Sabrina Siddiqui report.

The Chamber has spent $69.5 million electing candidates to Congress in the last two election cycles, the Huffington Post writers note, something that has “not always translated into legislative success.”

“Over the past 4 1/2 years, the Chamber of Commerce has lost most of its important legislative battles,” Blumenthal and Siddiqui wrote. “Health care and Wall Street reform laws were enacted and face little threat of repeal. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau finally has an appointed director and Democratic members of the National Labor Relations Board were approved by the Senate. More significantly, the chamber’s big spending in 2010 to elect a House GOP majority appears to have backfired. Many of the conservative lawmakers the chamber helped elect are now an impediment to the business lobby’s legislative priorities, either by contributing to Congress’ dysfunction or by actively opposing chamber-backed measures.”

Despite having lost all of those fights, the Chamber is now urging members of Congress “to pass comprehensive immigration reform in the 113th Congress.” The Chamber has spent millions airing advertisements pushing for an immigration reform bill, arguing that immigration fixes “are essential to continued economic growth,” and that immigration reform would “create jobs and economic growth.” 

Most immigration economists, however, disagree with that sentiment. The nation’s leading immigration economist George Borjas of Harvard University, for instance, argues that amnesty and a massive influx of new workers would hurt American workers, immigrant and native-born alike. Several members of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights argue that this will similarly be economically devastating to American workers, especially the black community.

The Huffington Post writers point to a July 17 report from the far leftwing website ThinkProgress, that lays out how at least 18 House Republicans the Chamber supported in 2010 and 2012 oppose the Senate bill. ThinkProgress also lambasts one Democrat who has voiced his opposition to amnesty, Rep. John Barrow (D-GA), and points out the Chamber’s six-figure donation to the Georgia Democrat has not influenced his position on the bill.

The Chamber’s perceived grip on politics does not seem to exist in the Senate, either. Only four of the 14 GOP Senators who voted in favor of the “Gang of Eight” bill were backed by the business lobby group. Several GOP Senators, like Rand Paul, Pat Toomey and Roy Blunt–who each received more than $1 million from the Chamber–and Ron Johnson, who received almost $750,000 from the Chamber, all voted against the bill.

The Huffington Post writers describe the Chamber’s congressional activities as a “losing legislative dynamic.”

“Nonetheless, the question remains whether chamber-supported candidates have yielded an ample return on investment,” the Huffington Post writers wrote. “Despite a few successes, the chamber has enjoyed few major legislative victories from its lobbying and campaign muscle in the Obama era. If anything, the lobbying group has incurred major setbacks in its mission to boost business by electing lawmakers who have been counterproductive to that cause.”